Around this time of year, many of us are filing–or procrastinating about filing–our taxes. So you finally get around to filing your taxes, and your return is rejected because someone has already filed for that social security number. Uh-oh! What now? You know you haven’t filed your taxes already, and you’ve double checked your social security number to make sure you typed it in right.

Stock image of man filling out 1040 Tax form

Then you find out your worst fear is true: someone else has already filed a tax return using your social security number – otherwise known as IRS Tax Return Fraud.

Immediate Actions To Take

There are three things you need to do as soon as you can:

  • First, file a police report for identity theft. Someone clearly has your social security number.
  • Second, you need to file IRS form 14039.
  • Finally, notify the FTC, they can help you sort out the aftermath of identity theft with banks, creditors, etc.

Filing a police report will make dealing with your creditors and the IRS easier, but by no means easy. It’s never easy to deal with identity theft. IRS form 14039 is an affidavit of identity theft. It lets the IRS know that you have been the victim of IRS Tax Return Fraud, and that when they receive your (mailed) tax form, it is the one that should be used for your social security number.

Consequences of Tax Return Fraud

Unfortunately, the IRS will require that you mail this year’s tax forms instead of e-filing. You can usually continue to e-file your state returns, but check your state’s website for details on what you should do.

The IRS will research your tax return to determine the circumstances and whether they can find who fraudulently filed your taxes for you. This can take a very long time. Any refund you might be due will not be mailed or deposited until the investigation is done. So, if you were depending on your tax return to pay bills or pay for something else, start looking at other options. You’re not going to see that money for a while (and of course they don’t pay you interest on it either!). If you owe taxes, you’re just going to have to pay them before the April 15 due date as usual. You also have to file (by mail) any other taxes (like next year’s) on-time if your case takes that long. The IRS says that if you haven’t heard anything from them within 180 days, to call their Identity Protection Specialized Unit.

Once the IRS has investigated your case, you’ll get a special PIN that you must use when filing your taxes in the future. Up until a few years ago, this PIN wasn’t supported in most e-filing software, so you still had to mail all of your tax returns, with your PIN printed on it. Now, e-filing is possible again, just enter your PIN when the software asks for it.

Continuing to Protect Yourself

While you are waiting for the IRS, you should also contact all of the credit reporting agencies and make sure no one has opened an account using your social security number. Remember, someone has your social security number – it may have been just a typo, or it may have been maliciously obtained. To protect yourself, you need to treat it as if it was maliciously obtained.

It may be worth contacting any organizations that you have given your social security number to within the last year to determine if any of them have experienced a breach of security. Accountants, doctors’ offices, and law firms are all under attack. Inform them that your identity has been stolen, and ask what they are doing to protect your personal information.

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